Rushden Echo, 18th December 1914
Lance-Corporal Charles Dilley
"Ypres was the roughest of all battles and the man who has stood it all from the beginning to there is a marvel. Nearly every soldier is suffering from shattered nerves as a result of the continual strain and hard living." Lance-Corporal Charles Dilley (Rushden), of the 2nd Northants, made the remark to a Rushden Echo representative this week in an interview. He had been wounded in the leg by a German bullet and arrived home recently.
"The man who shot me was no more than three yards away and two out of five of us were hit at the same time. It was at Ypres one evening at dusk about a month ago. I was in charge of four men patrolling in advance of the company. Going along a country road we were fired on from a ditch in which were a few Germans, probably on the same errand as ourselves. The other man who got hit was wounded in both arms but his body was missed. It might have been the same bullet that struck us both.
"There is no denying that the German soldiers are plucky and can fight like a trained soldier should. They had more Maxims and better artillery generally than we had. And we had been there two days without food and marching all the time. There was, of course, any amount of fruit, and we had to get what we could of that. Every man is supposed to have emergency rations but these were soon gone.
"Going back we found the countryside very different. We passed along almost the same line but where the Germans had stopped there were plenty of signs of their handiwork. But although I saw many wrecked homes, in all truthfulness I didn't see any dead bodies of women or children, either French or Belgian. Of course, there may have been some in the houses, but none were to be seen on the roads. A thing that causes a lot of cursing is the idiotic talk about supplying the soldiers at the front with footballs! Just imagine being within about 80 yards of the enemy's entrenchments and trying to play football! All these things tend to make the soldier think the public do not try to understand the difficulties that we had to face; snow, rain and cold winds nearly freeze you. Bullets are continually whistling by, shells flying about and Jack Johnsons roaring overhead and falling with tremendous explosions. If, in the daytime, you raise your head to have a shot at the Germans in the opposing trenches, you are likely to get a bullet through your skull.
"There is a lot said about soldiers pinching each other's kit, but they will always share a fag. When you get right into the firing line all men are equal - officers, non-commissioned officers and men. There is no attempt on the part of officers to order you about. It would be useless. Every man looks after himself, that is, of course, apart from charging and retreating. If a man disgraces himself out there he doesn't bother always to face it out. I have known cases of where such men have deliberately exposed themselves and got shot.
"I had been fighting practically side by side with my brother. He is one of the best brothers a man could wish for, he got wounded in the chin but refused to go to base because he wanted to be near me. When I got hit I shouted to tell him. He replied, but I could not catch what he said." Lance-Corporal Dilley said he thought the Germans had been guilty of all the atrocities of which they had been accused. He had seen children with their hands cut off, and others in a miserable condition. English doctors would always run to the rescue as soon as they saw sufferers in this terrible plight, as was often the case on the advance from Paris. Belgium could hardly be called a country, he said, it was more like a great brick-yard! Wounded soldiers are looked after in a splendid fashion and provided with all sorts of comforts.